By Eddie Ssejjoba
KAMPALA - African women MPs and leaders want parents to allow their teenage daughters to access family planning and reproductive health services with a view of bringing down the increasing cases of early and unwanted pregnancies, risky abortions and maternal deaths.
The women leaders on a two-day capacity building meeting that opened on Sunday at Speke Resort Munyonyo discussed ways on how they can reposition family planning and reproductive health on the development agenda of their respective government budgets.
The meeting was organized by Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office (PPDARO) in collaboration with the Health Policy Project and drew participants from Ethiopia, Malawi, Ghana and Uganda the host.
Former Kalangala district Woman MP, Ruth Nvumetta Kavuma, who is a member of the African Women Leaders’ Network said that one of the major objectives of the meeting is to ensure leaders push issues of family planning and reproductive health in their countries to get increased funding.
Increased funding, she pointed out, would be key in lowering the infant and maternal mortality rates and make family planning services accessible to all women.
Amid such efforts, most parents, especially mothers still carry a negative attitude of family planning and reproductive health to their teenage daughters, said Kavuma.
And the mindset is that some mothers think that by letting their teenage daughters to access family planning services, it would lead them into promiscuity.
“But parents ought to explain all issues around family planning and reproductive health to their teenage girls so that they are aware of the outcomes of any activity they might desire to involve themselves in, including early sex,” she said.
The former lawmaker underscored the need for parents to let their teenage daughters access family planning contraceptives because of the potential of early exposure to sexual activity.
“We want parents to allow the teenage girls to attend family planning meetings at various health facilities so that they can access information and services that can help them to avoid early sex and pregnancies and how to deal with all issues around reproductive health.”
Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, the PPDARO director said there is need for African governments to increase funding towards family planning services.
He said, in Uganda for example, at least 34% of couples desire to have family planning services to space their births but cannot access them.
He went on to stress that efforts should be made to ensure this portion can have voluntary family planning services.
“If women can access voluntary family planning services, they will avoid risky and unwanted pregnancies and deaths, leading to spaced births that will be reflected in other sectors like gainful employment,” he said.
He explained that although Uganda has seen increased funding towards family planning in the last four years, there is still need to improve on policies that can benefit the grassroots women to access better health services.
Ellen Thokon Solomon from the Malawian parliament said many teenage girls in her country who became mothers disclosed that they had never received any information regarding family planning and therefore lacked knowledge on how to avoid early pregnancies.
Other young mothers in Malawi say, according to Solomon, that they would want to use family planning methods but cannot access the services or are not aware of facilities where they are available.
She therefore appealed for increased funding so that these services could be available to all women at the various lower health faculties.